It’s easy to understand why people need to have a wallet for their actual money. Whatever portion of it that you keep in cash is a physical object that needs to be protected and kept together while you carry it around and go about your daily business. Part of the point of crypto-currencies, however, is that they are thoroughly digital. It’s only natural that many people who are new to the idea would wonder why exactly someone using them would want a wallet and what it could possibly do for them.
The term wallet is really just a metaphor. When the creators of these currencies and the communities that grew up around them were coming up with a file to store all of the information about digital wealth in, it was natural to want to draw a parallel to the object that serves a comparable role for traditional currency. By calling the file a wallet, they made it fairly easy for newcomers to understand what they were talking about when the term was used, while also helping the whole arrangement to seem more natural and less intimidating.
A Bitcoin wallet, therefore, is really just something that helps you out by storing all of the information that’s relevant to your currency. It includes things like the keys that are necessary for actually accessing and transferring the coins, personal keys and account information, and information on the current state of the blockchain that tracks the larger universe of information about transactions that are occurring over time. It’s a single place that holds onto all of the things that are needed to actually use your wealth for purchases or donations, and is also designed to help ensure that the information within remains safe from anyone who might try to steal from you by getting illicit access to your mobile phone or other device.
Because everything involved in the currency operates based on standards and well-understood math, many different people and companies are capable of creating wallets. You can choose among all of the options out there, and still have something that will allow you to carry out transactions with people who are using other software.